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| Ribes nigrum|
It is a small shrub, growing to 1–2 m tall. The leaves are alternate, simple, 3–5 cm long and broad, and palmately lobed with five lobes, with a serrated margin. The flowers are 4–6 mm diameter, with five reddish-green to brownish petals; they are produced in racemes 5–10 cm long.
When not in fruit, the plant looks similar to the redcurrant shrub, distinguished by a strong fragrance from leaves and stems. The fruit is an edible berry 1 cm diameter, very dark purple in colour, almost black, with a glossy skin and a persistent calyx at the apex, and containing several seeds dense in nutrients. An established bush can produce up to 5 kilograms of berries during summer.
Plants from Asia are sometimes distinguished as a separate variety, Ribes nigrum var. sibiricum, or even as a distinct species Ribes cyathiforme.
There are many cultivars of blackcurrant, including: Amos Black, Ben Alder, Ben Avon, Ben Connan, Ben Dorain, Ben Gairn, Ben Hope, Ben Lomond, Ben Loyal, Ben More, Ben Sarek, Ben Tirran, Big Ben, Boskoop Giant, Cotswold Cross and Wellington XXX.
New varieties are being developed continually to improve frost tolerance, disease resistance, machine harvesting, fruit quality, nutritional content and fruit flavour.
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During World War II, most fruits rich in vitamin C, such as oranges, became almost impossible to obtain in the United Kingdom. Since blackcurrant berries are a rich source of vitamin C and blackcurrant plants are suitable for growing in the UK climate, blackcurrant cultivation was encouraged by the British government. Soon, the yield of the nation's crop increased significantly. From 1942 on, almost the entire British blackcurrant crop was made into blackcurrant syrup (or cordial) and distributed to the nation's children free, giving rise to the lasting popularity of blackcurrant flavourings in Britain.
Blackcurrants were once popular in the United States as well, but became rare in the 20th century after currant farming was banned in the early 1900s, when blackcurrants, as a vector of white pine blister rust, were considered a threat to the U.S. logging industry. The federal ban on growing currants was shifted to jurisdiction of individual states in 1966, and was lifted in New York State in 2003 through the efforts of horticulturist Greg Quinn. As a result, currant growing is making a comeback in New York, Vermont, Connecticut and Oregon. However, several statewide bans still exist including Maine and New Hampshire.
Since the American federal ban ceased currant production nationally for nearly a century, the fruit remains largely unknown in the United States, and has yet to regain its previous popularity to levels enjoyed in Europe or New Zealand. Owing to its unique flavour and richness in polyphenols, dietary fibre and essential nutrients, awareness and popularity of blackcurrant is once again growing, with a number of consumer products entering the market.
Nutrients and phytochemicals
|Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)|
|Thiamine (Vit. B1)||0.05 mg (4%)|
|Riboflavin (Vit. B2)||0.05 mg (3%)|
|Niacin (Vit. B3)||0.3 mg (2%)|
|Pantothenic acid (B5)||0.398 mg (8%)|
|Vitamin B6||0.066 mg (5%)|
|Vitamin C||181 mg (302%)|
|Calcium||55 mg (6%)|
|Iron||1.5 mg (12%)|
|Magnesium||24 mg (6%)|
|Phosphorus||59 mg (8%)|
|Potassium||322 mg (7%)|
|Zinc||0.27 mg (3%)|
| Percentages are relative to US recommendations for adults.|
Source: USDA Nutrient database
The fruit has extraordinarily high vitamin C content (302% of the Daily Value per 100 g, table), good levels of potassium, phosphorus, iron and vitamin B5, and a broad range of other essential nutrients (nutrient table, right).
Other phytochemicals in the fruit (polyphenols/anthocyanins) have been demonstrated in laboratory experiments with potential to inhibit inflammation mechanisms suspected to be at the origin of heart disease, cancer, microbial infections or neurological disorders like Alzheimer's disease. Major anthocyanins in blackcurrant pomace are delphinidin-3-O-glucoside, delphinidin-3-O-rutinoside, cyanidin-3-O-glucoside, and cyanidin-3-O-rutinoside which are retained in the juice concentrate among other yet unidentified polyphenols.
Blackcurrant seed oil is also rich in many nutrients, especially vitamin E and several unsaturated fatty acids including alpha-linolenic acid and gamma-linolenic acid. In a human pilot study, ingestion of blackcurrant seed oil by mothers reduced atopic dermatitis in their breast-fed newborns who were supplemented with the oil over two years.
In the UK, blackcurrant Squash (drink) is often mixed with cider to make a drink called "Cider and Black". The addition of lager results in "Diesel" or "Snakebite and Black" available at pubs. Adding a small amount of blackcurrant juice to Guinness is preferred by some to heighten the taste of the popular stout. Macerated blackcurrants are also the primary ingredient in the apéritif crème de cassis. Japan imports $3.6 million of New Zealand blackcurrants for uses as dietary supplements, snacks, functional food products and as quick-frozen (IQF) produce for culinary production as jams, Fruit preserves or preserves. In Russia, blackcurrant leaves may be used for flavouring tea or preserves. Sweetened vodka may also be infused with blackcurrant leaves or berries, making a deep yellowish-green beverage with a sharp flavour and astringent taste.
Besides being juiced and used in jellies, syrups, and cordials, blackcurrants are also used in cooking because their astringency creates flavour in many sauces, meat dishes, and desserts.
It was once thought that currants needed to be "topped and tailed" (the flower remnants and the stalks removed) before cooking. This is not the case, though, as these parts are easily assimilated during the cooking process. If one prefers, the whole blackcurrant stem and fruit can be frozen, then shaken vigorously. The tops and tails will break off, and the fruit can then be easily separated.
Ribena, a non-carbonated soft drink flavored with blackcurrants, takes its name from Ribes.
Blackcurrant berries have a distinctive sweet and sharp taste popular in jam, juice, ice cream, and liqueur (see Ribena). They are a common ingredient of Rødgrød, a popular kissel-like dessert in North German and Danish cuisines. In the United Kingdom, Europe and Commonwealth countries, some types of confectionery include a blackcurrant flavour, and in Belgium and the Netherlands, cassis is a flavoured currant soft drink. In the United States, blackcurrant flavour is rather rare in candies and jellies compared to UK sweets. In the United States, grape flavour is often used in brands of candy where blackcurrant would appear in Europe. Blackcurrant syrup mixed with white wine is called Kir or Kir Royale when mixed with Champagne (wine).
- "Synonymy - Ribes nigrum". Northern Ontario Plant Database. http://www.northernontarioflora.ca/chklst.cfm?speciesid=1003093. Retrieved November 11, 2009.
- "Edible Plants". Edible Plants. http://www.edible-plants.com/258/blackcurrant-cultivars/edibleplants/blackcurrant/. Retrieved 2009-12-06.
- Junnila, S. et al. (1987). "A green-fruited blackcurrant variety ‘Vertti’". Annales Agriculturae Fenniae 26: 278–283.
- "US Agricultural Research Service Note". Ars.usda.gov. http://www.ars.usda.gov/research/publications/Publications.htm?seq_no_115=174038. Retrieved 2009-12-06.
- Foderaro, Lisa W. (2003-10-16). "New York Times". New York Times. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9A0CE3D7163EF935A25753C1A9659C8B63. Retrieved 2009-12-06.
- "USDA Plant profile for Ribes nigrum L., European black currant". Plants.usda.gov. http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=RINI. Retrieved 2009-12-06.
- "Chapter 1: White Pine Blister, Pine Blister Rust, Quarantine on Currant and Gooseberry Bushes.". Department of Conservation, Bureau of Forestry, State of Maine. http://www.maine.gov/doc/mfs/WPBRrule.htm. Retrieved 2009-12-18.
- "NH RSA 227-K, White Pine Blister Rust Control Areas". Gencourt.state.nh.us. 1996-01-01. http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/rsa/html/XIX-A/227-K/227-K-6.htm. Retrieved 2009-12-06.
- Heinonen, M (2007). "Antioxidant activity and antimicrobial effect of berry phenolics--a Finnish perspective". Molecular nutrition & food research 51 (6): 684–91. doi:10.1002/mnfr.200700006. PMID 17492800.
- Seeram, NP (2008). "Berry fruits: compositional elements, biochemical activities, and the impact of their intake on human health, performance, and disease". Journal of agricultural and food chemistry 56 (3): 627–9. doi:10.1021/jf071988k. PMID 18211023.
- Kapasakalidis, PG; Rastall, RA; Gordon, MH (2006). "Extraction of polyphenols from processed black currant (Ribes nigrum L.) residues". Journal of agricultural and food chemistry 54 (11): 4016–21. doi:10.1021/jf052999l. PMID 16719528.
- Mcdougall, GJ; Gordon, S; Brennan, R; Stewart, D (2005). "Anthocyanin-flavanol condensation products from black currant (Ribes nigrum L.)". Journal of agricultural and food chemistry 53 (20): 7878–85. doi:10.1021/jf0512095. PMID 16190645.
- Nielsen, IL; Haren, GR; Magnussen, EL; Dragsted, LO; Rasmussen, SE (2003). "Quantification of anthocyanins in commercial black currant juices by simple high-performance liquid chromatography. Investigation of their pH stability and antioxidative potency". Journal of agricultural and food chemistry 51 (20): 5861–6. doi:10.1021/jf034004. PMID 13129285.
- Traitler, H; Winter, H; Richli, U; Ingenbleek, Y (1984). "Characterization of gamma-linolenic acid in Ribes seed". Lipids 19 (12): 923–8. doi:10.1007/BF02534727. PMID 6098796.
- Blackcurrant seed oil for prevention of atopic dermatitis in newborns: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial
- "New Nutrition Business, Japan makes a superfruit out of the humble blackcurrant, 2006" (PDF). http://www.blackcurrant.co.nz/Downloads/BLACKCURRANT%20NNB1.pdf. Retrieved 2009-12-06.
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- The Blackcurrant Foundation
- Blackcurrant recipes
- Are They Currants or Raisins? An essay making a case that blackcurrants are real currants while "Zante currants" - which are known simply as "currants" in the U.S. and some other parts of the world - are not. The author does not appear to know about the theory that blackcurrants and redcurrants took their English name from Zante currants, which seem be the same fruits that were called "raysons of coraunce" (with various spellings) in Middle English, from Old French "raisins de Corauntz". It gives the confusion a recent date.
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